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SPAR South Africa’s rural hubs show promise

SPAR South Africa’s rural hubs show promise


Sustainable local supply chains for produce grown in remote areas are at the project’s heart

SPAR South Africa sees small-scale rural farmers as the key to a sustainable future for the vast nation. It believes they can help improve food security, affordability and nutrition for its rural communities. With the Dutch-founded SPAR Group and support from the Dutch government, it has created a rural hub business model based on packhouses serving as mini distribution centres in outlying areas of South Africa. The idea is to develop local supply chains of fresh produce in a cost-efficient and environmentally responsible way. And while its initial two hubs have not been without challenges and are not yet profitable, SPAR South Africa believes “we have created a sustainable model that can be rolled out nationally.”

More rural farmers starting to thrive 

SPAR’s first rural hub was established in Mopani, in Limpopo, South Africa’s northernmost province, in June 2016. It is based on the concept of a central fresh assembly point (FAP), which acts as a collection point for a range of fresh produce sourced from smallholder farmers to supply local SPAR stores within a radius of up to 200 km. SPAR says that over July 2018 / June 2019, 10 farmers/groups supplied the Mopani hub, many of whom could finance a portion of their business themselves for the first time – a sign that they can now stand on their own feet. The hub bought produce worth R1.26 million (≈€80,300) from them, with crops including green beans, baby marrows, butternuts, baby corn, cabbage, watermelon and lettuce. The hub in turn supplied 41 customers, most of which were SPAR stores, and in the past year sold more produce to informal traders, something seen as a significant development. A second rural hub business was established in Ikhwezi, in the northeastern province of Mpumalanga, in October 2017, with a group of 36 smallholder farmers. Over the same period, the Ikhwezi hub purchased produce worth R1.16 million (≈€74,000) from 24 farmers. Crops included tomatoes, cabbage, butternut, green beans, bitter melon, lettuce and sweet potatoes. The packhouse supplied 27 customers, most of which were SPAR stores.

Overcoming challenges

SPAR chairman Mike Hankinson says the rural hub project shows early signs of being financially sustainable for a group of small emerging farmers, but there was a need to find new ways for the economics around delivery and packing to make sense. One challenge was that low-margin products, such as cabbage and spinach, continued to be sourced by local SPAR stores directly from smallholder farmers in close proximity to the stores. However, many of these small businesses were at risk as they lacked food safety accreditation to sell their produce directly to stores. Routing these products through the FAPs, on the other hand, incurred unnecessary transport and handling costs. To address such issues, SPAR has developed a model to transport certain produce directly from farmer to store, while other items are distributed through the central FAP. Also, the farmers have received food safety training in order to get local.g.a.p certification, and technology solutions were introduced to help farmers grow high value crops and extend their growing seasons, thereby improving their sustainability. “We remain committed to the concept of rural farmers supplying fresh produce to SPAR stores. It has the potential to provide employment, grow rural economies, ensure food security and improve nutrition, while reducing transport costs for SPAR, shorten lead times, and increase freshness and shelf life,” Hankinson said.

SPAR South Africa acts as a supermarket supplier

Established in 1963, SPAR South Africa grants licences to independent retailers to operate stores under one of four formats, with almost all of its current store portfolio independently owned. “The SPAR Group in Southern Africa acts as a wholesaler distributing the entire range of goods stocked by a typical supermarket, including fresh produce,” SPAR South Africa fresh food manager Peter Gohl told ED. “We supply a range of about 450 fresh produce products to about 850 independently owned and managed SPAR retail stores through 6 strategically located distribution centres. Excluding our SPAR Group Ltd European and UK/Irish holdings, the Southern Africa turnover in fresh produce amounted to about €320 million over the past 12 months. Of this, the fruit category contributed €130 million and imports in the fruit category amounted to €28 million,” he said.


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South African stone fruit sector battles through sustained drought

South African stone fruit sector battles through sustained drought

As South Africa’s farmers continue to battle the sustained drought the country has undergone in recent years, Hortgro, the organisation which represents South Africa’s stone and top fruit industries, has been supporting producers and agricultural workers to manage their product during the harvesting season. Hortgro Science provides research-based information to enhance the quality of South African stone and top fruit. Growers reportedly receive regular notes and technical updates from Hortgro Science, highlighting the primary fruit quality aspects to be adhered to during heat waves. The organisation works in collaboration with the Canning Fruit Producers’ Association, Agri Western Cape, Agri SA and Wine TU to help producers financially to through the rest of the production season and contain risks to crops. Hortgro delivered 1,000 food parcels to affected farmworkers in the Ladismith area and held a ‘resilience workshop’ to empower them mentally with coping strategies at the end of 2019.

The good news is that the drought has broken in some areas, like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. This means that Hortgro is optimistic that volumes will continue to increase throughout the season. Jacques du Preez, general manager trade and markets at Hortgro, said: “We are projecting an increase of 21% for nectarines compared to last season’s volumes, an increase of 14% for peaches and a 10% increase for plums. The continued droughts in some areas have, of course, impacted on the 2019/20 season’s full potential, but volumes and quality have certainly improved compared to last year.”


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The development of African agriculture in the spotlight at Macfrut

The development of African agriculture in the spotlight at Macfrut

At the meeting about Italian-African partnerships, case histories and projects of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique and Angola.

“Italy-Africa: a Renewed Partnership for Horticultural and Agro-Industrial Development”. This was the theme of the round table held at Macfrut in Rimini, which brought together ministers and representatives of the African agricultural sector and Italian institutions involved in African cooperation and development.

Emanuela Del Re, Italy’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, made an introductory address, highlighting Italy’s efforts to develop the skills of local workers through training (the only effective way of reducing the scourge of unemployment) and technology, and by introducing food safety criteria and transferring models for interconnecting agricultural supply chains. The potential advantages of the Italy-Africa partnership meet the need to address the continent’s growing population, which is expected to reach 4.7 billion by the end of the century. Huge expanses of arable land have not yet been exploited, so much so that only 30% are used: infrastructures need to be enhanced and new technologies and skills must be implemented, so that Africa can first meet its food demand and then supply other markets. As a leading country in the agro-industrial sector, Italy is the ideal partner in this process.

Thsibangu Kalala, Minister of Agriculture of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is aware of this and introduced the opening session entitled “Agriculture in Africa: Needs and Opportunities, Voices from the Continent”. ‘Agriculture has become a priority for the Congo,’ the Minister said. ‘We realised that the investments made in the mining sector did not bring the desired results and poverty is still widespread. Agriculture must be developed: we intend to support the credit system for the benefit of small and medium-sized businesses by investing resources from the mining sector in this sector, and by setting up a dedicated National Fund and introducing measures based on the European CAP model.’

A speech followed by Sani redi Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture. ‘In Ethiopia, agriculture is of paramount importance and accounts for 35% of the national GDP, but there is still huge potential for development. Our goal is to increase productivity in terms of quality by focusing on new technologies. This goal can be achieved by working in partnerships with leading-edge countries such as Italy, focusing on the context with a targeted and inclusive approach in order to improve productivity, trade and food safety, while reducing youth and female unemployment and, in doing so, poverty.’ It is a matter of incorporating specific and direct guidelines, aimed at defining an ambitious growth plan, which also includes creating agro-industrial parks. ‘With its 74 million hectares of arable land, Ethiopia has tremendous growth potential. We must be able to pursue an effective policy: the goal is to make Ethiopia become the cornerstone of industrialisation by 2025,’ stated Teka Gebreyesus Entehabu, Ethiophia’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry.

In Somalia, agriculture accounts for 70% of the national GDP and for 90% of exports. Today, local producers are increasingly inclined to invest in new technologies. ‘We are aware of the challenges posed by climate change that we will have to face in the near future and we are already taking measures to address them,’ said Ismail Dirie Gamadid, Somalia’s Minister of Agriculture.

Opportunities also abound for Mozambique, represented at the meeting by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Victor Domingos Canhemba Jr.: at present, only 15% of the 36 million hectares of arable land are used and biodiversity is potentially very high due to the physical conformation of the country, which is strategically located in terms of trade routes, also thanks to the presence of the port of Nacala, the third deepest port in East Africa. ‘This series of distinctive features makes Mozambique a particularly interesting country for potential partnerships.’

Finally, António Sozinho, Director General of Angola’s Ministry of Agriculture, took the floor. Angola is a country that has been committed to investing in agriculture since the oil crisis that severely affected its economy. ‘Today, our policy is driven by the desire to diversify in order to no longer depend on a single sector. In 2013, the Ministry of Finance announced that it would provide incentives to invest in agriculture, but issues related to the global crude oil economy and domestic policy issues have slowed down their implementation. We are now ready to start over in an effort to attract new investors who can make the most of our potential. The country is gradually resuming exports of its main products such as mangoes, bananas and pineapples, but there is still much to be done. Just think that only 5 out of 35 million hectares of arable land are cultivated.’ He then concluded, ‘Our priorities are investing in local and sustainable production as well as in technologies and new irrigation systems.’


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African avocado arrives on European markets

African avocado arrives on European markets

Africa is becoming a major player in the booming avocado sector. Kenya’s avocado season started in March with demand high. The country’s production will compete with Peruvian produce which come onto the market with large volumes in May. Kenya expects to be able to begin exporting to China by the end of the season in August.

Meanwhile, South Africa has seen a lower harvest this year, partly due to a heat wave in October 2018, resulting in volumes down 35% compared with last year’s record-breaking season. The country’s export season has already begun, with the Hass variety currently being harvested. However, prices are much higher this year, with expectations for them to continue to rise until the end of May. This month represents a crucial window for South African exporters to benefit from relatively low availability on the European market, before Peruvian and Chilean avocados arrive.


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Hazera, supporting agriculture in Africa

Hazera decided to support agricultural development in Africa, providing high quality seeds and expertise to support people improving their living conditions.

Vegetable seed company Hazera’s mission is to contribute to the supply of high quality vegetables all over the world. With this mission in mind, the company decided to support agricultural development in Africa, providing high quality seeds and expertise to support people improving their living conditions. In Ethiopia a development project that began with the adoption of one village is expanding now to 13 additional villages. Another project is supported in Holeta, where the Roseland foundation is developing the community through education and agriculture. More broadly, Hazera is training farmers all over Africa and is introducing vegetable varieties that can bring African farms to healthy profit.

The Ethiopian villages project was initiated and accompanied by Hazera together with its local distributor, Green Life. Challenge was to make local farmers more professional, so that they could better support their families. The project began in the small village of Gedenser, in eastern Ethiopia. Its agricultural potential called for a long-term investment, requiring the villagers to commit themselves to study and work in order to learn agriculture and make a living from it. Hazera contributed seeds to the project for 3 basic crops: onions, tomatoes and peppers. Hazera representatives brought together all the families involved, helped teach them to use organic animal manure for soil fertilization and provided agricultural equipment and supplies. After about a year, the villagers began to make a living from their produce. The project drew the attention of senior officials from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and from 2017 the project will be expanding to 13 more villages in Ethiopia!

The Roseland Academy initially started as a school located in Holeta Town, near Addis Abeba. Besides ensuring education and taking care of the children, the foundation also wants to improve life standard by developing vegetable cultivation. Harvested products are used for healthy meals prepared by the children and their mothers. By now, production is even exceeding the needs. The surplus vegetables, such as tomato, cauliflower, onion, cucumber and pepper, are sold on the local market, generating income for the community that is re-invested in new development projects.

Jawadat Badawieh, Hazera’s Manager responsible for African markets: “Beside these two exemplary development projects, Hazera is providing farmers training in a range of African countries such as Tanzania, Angola, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Rwanda and most recently in West-Africa, more particularly in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Senegal. In the last country we were also present at the Congress of the African Seed Trade Association at the beginning of March.

There is much demand from farmers for expertise and good practices. Hazera can offer those, and our selected vegetable varieties and genetics fit very well to African climate conditions. Hazera is seeking cooperation with governmental institutions, NGO’s and unions to enhance agricultural development and yields. The dream is to create successful projects such as those in Ethiopia also in other countries. At this moment I’m seeing opportunities in Uganda or maybe Rwanda. It would be very honourful for us to have the success concept transplanted to other countries and, more important, it would be beneficial for farmers.”

In Ethiopia, Hazera is also active with seed production for its vegetable varieties, another way to introduce professional knowledge into this continent full of promise. A potential that is also seen clearly by Hazera’s mother company Limagrain, that has considerably strengthened its presence in Afica through its daughter companies and through several recent acquisitions such as Link Seed (South Africa) and Seed Co (several countries).

As Hazera’s CEO Rami Dar stated: “Hazera aims to help feed the world’s growing population and develop agriculture throughout the world. By supporting and developing agriculture in Africa we can help millions of people to improve their living conditions”.

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A win-win situation with Africa

More than a million tons of fruit and vegetables are exported by the EU to Africa

The European Union’s imports of fresh fruit and fresh vegetables from outside the EU remained stable at 11.8 million tons (worth almost €11.8 billion) and 1.6 million tons (€1.7 billion) respectively in 2015. A 3% increase in volume is visible compared to 2014. Imports of fresh fruit are largely being complemented by developing countries. South-Africa is the largest African supplier, shipping citrus, apples and pears in large quantities to the EU, while mangoes come from West Africa and some avocados are shipped from Kenya. As for vegetables, most are supplied by producers in the EU, neighbouring countries, Africa and Israel. In winter, African vegetables go to Europe.

1.2 million tons of vegetables from Northern Africa

In 2015, about 1.2 million tons of fresh vegetables were imported into EU28 from Africa, representing a market share of 73% that remained stable compared to the previous year. There are only two countries dominating the market: Morocco and Egypt. Early potatoes are a much loved import, with 151,000 tons imported from Egypt and a rise of 26%. Moroccan potato growers added 6,000 tons, too. Together with Israel, they supply the bulk of the early potato imports.

The story of winter tomatoes is well known and under heavy attack from Spanish growers import volumes stabilised at 390,000 tons. Huge foreign investments in the Senegalese and Tunisian tomato industry were not profitable and volumes fell to 13,000 tons and 10,000 tons respectively. Out of all the winter tomatoes imported into the EU, 84% came from these 3 countries. In winter, squashes and courgettes are more and more on the European supermarkets’ order lists. Morocco was able to sell 3% more, reaching 141,000 tons, but Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, Tunisia and South Africa are smaller players in this market segment. The European production season for fresh beans and pulses is mostly limited to July and August, when beans and pulses are among the most widely grown vegetables in Europe. Italy and Spain are the largest producers of beans, whereas France and the United Kingdom are the largest producers of peas. European production of sugar snaps and mange touts is lower than for fresh beans and pulses, but it is growing as these products are becoming more popular.

Outside of Europe, fresh beans and pulses are also grown extensively in Asia and Africa, as well as in South America (e.g. sugar snaps in Guatemala), who are strong suppliers to European supermarkets. Morocco, Egypt, Kenya and Senegal have an export market of 196,000 tons, of which Morocco takes 65%.

Importance of CSR, transparency 

Most of these fresh vegetables sold in the European market are sold through large supermarket chains and specialist shops. Large supermarkets have very strong purchasing power and buyer requirements are very important for them. For all vegetables, quality during harvest and shipping, as well as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), are becoming increasingly important, as well as supply chain transparency and information sharing. Long-term partnerships are desired by EU buyers to ensure product supply and quality. Worldwide production is increasing and competition is very fierce. Temporary shortfalls in supply or demand (e.g. through border closures) have a huge impact on prices. Certification and fulfilling both legal and non-legal requirements are major obstacles for producers and exporters entering the market. This said the fact that the majority African countries are not yet capable of having an outlet to the European market.

African imports of 452,000 tons of European onions

In 2015, apple and pear growers from Europe produced large volumes, especially Poland, seeing impressive apple production. Belgian pears were also abundant and the Dutch onion crop reached a record of 1.5 billion tons. The Russian boycott in place since August 2014 affected the whole trade. It was obviously nice to have such a volume market it, but when this door closes, operators look for new ones elsewhere. In 2015, the Netherlands the onion trade saw success, achieving record exports. Total EU onion exports, of which 95% are produced by the Dutch, reached 851,000 tons, up 20% compared to the year before. The challenge for onion exporters was to find gaps in the world between the old and new local harvests. West African countries offered a solution and bought 452,000 tons, up 14%. FOB prices per kg increased to €0.26 kg. Senegal remained the largest importer with 153,000 tons and Ivory Coast bought 95,000 tons, up 43% with at competitive prices. They were followed by Guinea with 53,000 tons. Fifteen other West African countries sourced onions in the Netherlands. West-African countries now buy more than half of European onion exports.

African apple imports of 480,000 tons

The loss of the Russian apple  market was not fully compensated by sales into new markets. In 2015, EU apple exports to the world reached 2.1 billion tons, down 5%. Africa helped and bought 480,000 tons, up 10% on the previous year. The largest volume of 227,000 tons went to Egypt, 46% up on the year before. About 8% fewer French apples were sold in Algeria and Italian apple exports to Lybia dropped by 31%. This is in contrast to improved sales in almost all West African countries, which is an indication that the local population is liking the taste of a sweet apple more and more. Africa is becoming an important outlet for European apple exports, taking a 23% market share. 


Composed satellite photograph of Africa by NASA, Public Domain,

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Africans tour Philadelphia Port as new season fruit arrives

Holt and African Delegation - Edited

On the eve of the start of the African fruit season, in which perishable summer commodities originated on the continent begin to arrive on shores in the US, a delegation from several African nations has visited the Port of Philadelphia.

Holt Logistics Corp said that as part of their historic visit and participation in the African Business Roundtable at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, dignitaries from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, and Tanzania toured facilities at Gloucester Marine Terminal to learn about the numerous quality initiatives and processes utilised by the company. 

Additionally, the delegation discussed potential expansion of trade partnerships that will come as a result of the proposed African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) currently before the US congress, Holt said in a press release dated June 15.

The first vessel of the 2015 South Africa fruit season arrived this morning at the Gloucester Marine Terminal. The Lapponian Reefer, a specialised refrigerated cargo ship discharged approximately 3,600 pallets of fresh oranges from the Western Cape of South Africa. The cargo arrived under the strict guidance of 360 Quality, an international shipping association dedicated to ensuring quality and safety in supply chain management for perishable fruits and vegetables, it also said.

“This visit of the delegation of West African leaders is timely in many ways,” said Peter Inskeep, general manager of the Gloucester Marine Terminal. “The beginning of the Summer Citrus season has created a heightened interest and awareness in developing nations of the value of fast, dedicated and direct transport of food products. We are also eager to share best practices in food handling and production with these potentially very important trade partners in support of AGOA, which will greatly increase commodities traffic between our two continents. Holt Logistics Corp is foundational terminal operator member of the 360 Quality Initiative, and we look forward to sharing a framework that can be transposed onto the many high quality food products that reach the North American Market through the Delaware River Ports.”

Holt and African Delegation - Edited (1).jpg

In the photo: (left to right): Sander Daniel, Global Marketing, Holt Logistics Corp; The Honorable Thulisile Mathula Nkosi, Consul General, Republic of South Africa; Florizelle B. Liser, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa; His Excellency Joseph Henry Smith, Ambassador, The Republic of Ghana; Leo A. Holt, president, Holt Logistics Corp; His Excellency Daouda Diabate, Ambassador, The Republic of Cote d’Ivoire; His Excellency Limbiye E. Kadangha Bariki, Ambassador, The Republic of Togo; Her Excellency Lily Munanka, Ambassador, Republic of Tanzania; and His Excellency Api Assoumatine, Togolese Ambassador to Ghana.

source: Holt Logistics Corp

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Southern Africa’s citrus growers urged to stay cool in tricky market


Southern Africa’s citrus growers are entering a season that has “difficult” written all over it, according to Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa,

in his newsletter for this week, he said Southern Africa’s volumes available for export continue to grow but amid a context of markets still under recessionary pressure, geopolitical decisions leading to uncertain market conditions, and protection of domestic producers becoming a priority.

“Responsible decision making will mean keeping unwanted or oversupplied fruit out of the market (sell domestically or processed),” Chadwick said.

In one of his newsletters last month, he had explained why the Southern African citrus industry had asked officials to suspend the issue of phytosanitary certificates for fruit to be exported to Spain, amid concerns over how tests for citrus black spot (CBS) are carried out there.

Russian importers looking to secure fruit at lower prices

In his latest newsletter, Chadwick said there had been reports from Russia of “a lot of Egyptian oranges of substandard quality available, selling at very low prices”, a situation that would continue to the end of May. With the weak ruble resulting in food inflation of 16-17%, buyers are seeking to source fruit at lower prices and growers need to be careful, he said.

The Middle East: seller beware

Chadwick said care is also needed in the Middle East. Strict payment conditions should be imposed and growers need to ensure they fully understand the terms and conditions their export agents are negotiating as “at the end of the day the grower bears the losses resulting from a poor deal,” he said.

Export volume estimates for 2015

Chadwick also reported that the forecast is for this year’s packed for export volume to be 113.1 million 15kg cartons, down 2.2% on last year.

  • Oranges: valencia down 3.5% to 49.1 million cartons; navels down 3.5% to 25.1 million cartons. These decreases mainly due to hail in Senwes and Western Cape growing regions
  • Lemons: up 2.9% to 13.6 million
  • Grapefruit: down 2% to 15.3 million cartons. Exporters have said this estimate could be revised further downward as the season unfolds and quality specifications become clearer
  • Soft citrus exports: steady at 10 million cartons
  • Satsuma: to increase 2% to 1.8 million cartons
  • Mandarins: to rise 4% to 5.3 million cartons
  • Clementines: down 5%

Read the newsletter here.



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African Fruit and Vegetable Exports Safe From Ebola, Experts Say


Fruit and vegetables from Africa will not spread Ebola virus

Imports of fresh fruit and vegetables from Africa are safe and can not spread the Ebola virus, the Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) has advised in response to queries by German fruit trade association DFHV.

DFHV raised the question in response to concerns from clients of member companies about whether fruit from Africa could be a source of Ebola infection. BNITM is a World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centre.

The ebola virus is not easily transmitted from person to person, like a cold or flu. Like the HIV virus, it requires direct contact with infectious body fluids.

Source: BNITM
Pic: ( (ID #1836))